Oil disaster would destroy coastal communities, cost hundreds of billions

November 20, 2018: The fishing and tourism industries of coastal communities from South Australia to Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island and iconic Bondi Beach in Sydney would be crippled for decades should a worst-case oil disaster occur costing the economy as much as $118 billion AUD.

Greenpeace have today released a new report titled Crude Intentions: the risks of drilling and spilling in the Great Australian Bight, which is the first time the risks, potential reach, and consequences of a Worst Case Discharge (WCD) oil spill from Norwegian company Equinor’s proposed exploratory drilling project at the Stromlo-1 well site in the Great Australian Bight have been tracked.

The report was written for Greenpeace by Alaskan oil spill consultant and marine biologist, Professor Richard Steiner, who was part of the response to both the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon oil disasters.

“The Great Australian Bight is one of the most productive and unique marine ecosystems in the world ocean. It has the densest concentrations of whales, sharks, seabirds, and fishes in Australia and supports and sustains a multi-billion dollar economy, with commercial fishing, aquaculture, and tourism,” Professor Steiner said.

A single mistake in the drilling of the Stromlo-1 project could seriously damage the existing economy of not only the Bight but areas that extend far beyond that, including the Tasmanian aquaculture industries, with impacts felt up the whole eastern seaboard of Australia, past Sydney. This is a catastrophic risk that most Australians are not even aware of despite the threat it is currently facing.”

Prof Steiner said that oil spills left communities crippled and that any suggestion they could be cleaned up or rehabilitated was a myth, pointing to unpublished images from Prince William Sound that show oil was present in high quantities even 30 years after the Exxon Valdez disaster.

“Experience with large marine oil spills around the world has shown that seldom is even more than 10 percent of the spill actually recovered or cleaned up, and usually much less. The other 90 percent or more of the oil remains a dangerous pollutant in the environment slowly weathering – that’s true of all major oil spills,” he said.

“The clean up procedure itself also involves using massive amounts of dispersants which themselves cause damage to marine life and causes the oil and gas to remain more in the water column – transferring the impacts from sea surface to the water column and seabed.

“Once you’ve spilled it, you’ve lost the battle. There is very little that can be done to contain the oil, recover it, clean beaches, rehabilitate oiled wildlife, restore spill injured ecosystems, or stabilize spill chaos in human communities. All effort should be in preventing these disasters, and I salute the people of Australia in paying attention to this proposed project long before decisions are made.”

Pictures and video available at this link

The full report can be accessed at this link

For interviews contact:

Simon Black

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Senior Media Campaigner

0418 219 086 / [email protected]


Martin Zavan

Greenpeace Australia Pacific Media Campaigner

0424 295 422 / [email protected]